As the NBA inches closer and closer to free agency, the smoke continues to clear on the Zach LaVine situation.
Long-time NBA reporter Marc Stein (h/t HoopsHype) has become the second notable insider to link the two-time All-Star back to the Chicago Bulls. Stein reiterated a recent report from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, adding that word of LaVine’s intentions has now spread around the league:
My Bleacher Report colleague Jake Fischer reported Tuesday that his most recent reporting suggests LaVine will stay in Chicago. I’ve since been told that similar messaging has been conveyed to teams that were plotting to make a run at prying LaVine away from the Bulls.
Not only is it important to hear these words shared from more than one source, but Stein’s note about rival teams being told to step back should make LaVine’s intentions even more clear.
LaVine nor his agency would want to stir up too much false hope. Having several franchises position themselves financially for a real run at the 27-year-old only to say “SIKE” wouldn’t necessarily be the best look for business or branding. And now certainly feels like the right time for LaVine and Klutch to get their real message across.
The NBA Draft is less than a week away and free agency is set to start in less than two weeks. So, starting this Thursday on draft night, big-time decisions and moves will be made to build out future rosters. In other words, now is the moment for front office leaders – including Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley – to learn the truth. And the truth is what many of us always expected: LaVine is most likely to remain a Bull.
For a look at our original thoughts on Fischer’s report from earlier this week (June 14th, 2022), keep reading below:
Zach LaVine’s end-of-season press conference started the fuss.
The two-time All-Star sounded confidently non-committal when he spoke to reporters on April 29th. He claimed he‘d remain “open-eyed” as he looked toward unrestricted free agency, forcing some Bulls fans to panic and many executives to drool.
Then, came the specific teams. Names like the Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Lakers, and Hawks all had their name thrown into the rumor mill. Meanwhile, questions loomed about where the Bulls’ front office truly stood on giving the man a max deal.
It turned into a real hot mess, and I’m sure LaVine wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Since the beginning, it felt as though much of the LaVine drama could be chalked up to strategy. Klutch – his new and massively-famous agency – has consistently shown they can (1) get a player the most money possible and (2) get a player the most attention possible. The bulk of this chaos has likely been part of that process.
Now, with free agency only a couple of short weeks away, we have received the most concrete report yet about LaVine’s future. And it echoes what many of us initially thought.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Zach LaVine is “expected to re-sign with the Chicago Bulls once the free-agency negotiation period opens June 30.”
While this has always felt like the most likely outcome, there was enough smoke in the air to have us second-guessing. However, Fischer has now suggested that negotiations will go as smoothly as we originally anticipated, which has only further put into question the validity of past rumors.
But among the teams in play for LaVine, only San Antonio could offer a clear No. 1 playmaking opportunity, and the Spurs are considered far off from the postseason environment LaVine prefers, leading to skepticism among rival executives that LaVine ever wanted to entertain options outside of Chicago
Indeed, the major question mark that still remains is exactly what will happen with the final year of LaVine’s new deal. Much of this media storm has likely been about scaring Arturas Karnisovas into putting all his chips on the table, but Fischer notes there still might be conversations to have on that front:
Ironing out LaVine’s next deal appears centered on the fifth year of the contract. LaVine is eligible for a five-year deal totaling roughly $200 million. Whether that season is fully guaranteed, is a player option or nets other potential outcomes remains to be seen.
I have little doubt LaVine has been assured that a fifth-year will be included in his contract, especially if he is now expected to make a hand-shake agreement the moment free agency opens up. I also have little doubt that this fifth year will be a player option, which would give the All-Star maximum flexibility. But, hey, LaVine doesn’t necessarily hold every card here, so we’ll just have to wait and see which route the front office goes.
If one thing is for sure, I’d much rather be questioning contract logistics than LaVine’s actual future with the Bulls! The door certainly remains up for him to leave until the pen is put to paper, but it’s reassuring to finally see a report like this surface.
Check out Fischer’s full article for Bleacher Report below: